Mission impossible: Attempting to declutter
Published 12:00 am, Wednesday, November 8, 2017
When I broached the subject about eliminating some of the major clutter in our home, my wife asked me when I was moving.
I thought that was a bit unfair. Granted, I have five bikes. But then we have more dishes in our cupboards than they do at Downton Abby. She suggests I could do with fewer bikes. I counter with the many advantages of paper plates.
The truth is we have both accumulated stuff over the years we not only don’t need, but in many cases don’t even know we have. This is one of the major problems with having too much stuff. You don’t remember you have it, so when you need it, you end up having to go out and buy another one. Then, because you can never find anything in the clutter, you soon lose contact with the duplicate. But not to worry, because in nine cases out of 10, as you are searching for the duplicate, you will either find the original, or any of the half dozen other clones you bought in the past.
There is no easy solution to this. In fact, the Law of Clutter makes it even more difficult. Although you may not know the Law of Clutter by this name, you are surely familiar with its basic precept, which is: As soon as you throw something away, you will immediately have a pressing use for it. This law is so immutable that on one occasion I actually chased the waste-collection truck down the street in an attempt to retrieve an item that had been consigned to the declutter bin.
There is, of course, a difference between a clutterer and a hoarder. A clutterer only retains the things he feels he may need some day. A hoarder retains everything because he feels he will need everything someday. A clutterer will attempt to declutter if presented with an emergency situation, such as a mother coming over. A hoarder will not attempt to dehoard if a mother is coming over, but may bring in heavy equipment to cut new connecting routes to various rooms.
In most cases, you can go from room to room in a clutterer’s home without putting your life in danger. In the homes of many hoarders, however, it is advisable not to venture beyond the front door without wearing a hardhat and an avalanche-locator beacon.
While it is usually simple to tell the difference between a clutterer and a hoarder, there is one place in particular where the distinction can be tricky. I am talking about the garage. This is the place where both clutterers and hoarders are often surprised to learn there are people who actually park cars in this space.
According to the experts, there are some key strategies to employ when on decluttering mission.
Determine what is clutter. The problem here, obviously, is that one spouse’s junk is another spouse’s treasurer. As a result, this is the point at which most clutter operations crash and burn.
Change your habits: Seriously? There is less chance of this happening than agreeing what is clutter.
Organize: I have to say I like the idea of having all my clutter where I can immediately get my hands on it.
Clean clothes closets: The two problems with this challenge are: One, clothes that are out of style will eventually come back into style if you hold onto them long enough. And two, no matter to what extent you have outgrown something, there is always the belief that one is just a diet or stomach virus away from fitting into those bell-bottom jeans again (when they come back into style).
Finally, a word about the junk drawer. Leave it alone. Some things are sacred.
Jim Shea is a lifelong Connecticut resident and journalist who believes the keys to life include the avoidance of physical labor and I-95. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @jimboshea.